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Guelph Youth Singers spearhead historic choral ensemble at Kiwanis Festival

The GYS Kiwanis Choir brings together 150 students from six local schools who will perform together at the Guelph Kiwanis Festival on April 23
Guelph Youth Singers Kiwanis Choir.

The Guelph Youth Singers (GYS) have collaborated with teachers from the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) and the Wellington Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) to gather a youth choir from across the region.  

The GYS Kiwanis Choir brings together 150 students from six local schools who will perform together at the Guelph Kiwanis Festival on April 23. 

“It will be an unforgettable musical experience,” explained Emily Petrenko, GYS Chamber Choir Conductor. “One child’s voice is beautiful, but standing on the stage together and singing in a large, unified group will create a powerful sensation.” 

Bringing this unique choir to life took a lot of commitment. In 2020, the Kiwanis Music Festival received a generous bequest from Oscar and Clara Bookbinder’s estate, with funds earmarked for community outreach. Planning their rebuild after the Covid shutdown, Guelph Youth Singers’ staff immediately started working on their vision for a large, unified choir introducing children to choral music. 

“Camaraderie, artistic expression and learning the magic of music are all part of the journey for these young people,” said GYS artistic director Marion Samuel-Stevens, who is also adjunct professor of voice at the School of Fine Art and Music at University of Guelph.

Six Local Schools Represented 

The GYS Kiwanis Choir includes choristers from the following local schools, whose teachers jumped at the chance to expand musical education for their students. Participating schools and sponsoring teachers are: 

  • Holy Rosary Catholic School (WCDSB), Rebecca Wittich
  • King George Public School (UGDSB), Emily Petrenko
  • Paisley Road Public School (UGDSB), Jennifer Gareau
  • Rickson Ridge Public School (UGDSB), Aaron Duncan and Angeline Lau  
  • St. Ignatius of Loyola (WCDSB), Jan Chapman
  • St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School Guelph (WCDSB), Piroska Szucs and Jaime Lynn Gooyers

“It’s the first time we’ve entered a youth choir representing public schools, Catholic schools and a youth music organization,” said Petrenko, who is a teacher at King George Public School and an examiner for the Royal Conservatory of Music.

The choristers are in grades one through seven, with most in grades four, five and six. “Some of these kids started school in the Covid years when singing wasn’t allowed, so this could be their introduction to music,” Petrenko added. 

Guelph Youth Singers 

Guelph Youth Singers is an award-winning choir with deep roots in the community. The GYS Kiwanis Choir marks the latest endeavour in a busy 2023-2024 season that has seen GYS working hard to rebuild after the Covid years. GYS recently launched Mini Music Makers, a program for children aged 4-8, and also introduced its sponsorship program, giving local businesses an opportunity to partner with a youth arts organization in their community. 



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